Le Domaine de Marie-Antoinette Tour (Self Guided), Versailles

Located on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles, the Trianon area - or Le Domaine de Marie-Antoinette – is a quiet place where Marie Antoinette went to escape the formalities of her royal position. If you buy a ticket at the entrance to the palace, you can discover all the best places in this very pleasant area of Versailles.
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Le Domaine de Marie-Antoinette Tour Map

Guide Name: Le Domaine de Marie-Antoinette Tour
Guide Location: France » Versailles (See other walking tours in Versailles)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 Km or 1.8 Miles
Author: leticia
1
Grand Trianon

1) Grand Trianon (must see)

Grand Trianon stands in splendour in its own park on the north-west part of Versailles and is one of the most visited of all Versailles’ beautiful buildings.

It stands on what was once the small hamlet of Trianon, which was annexed by King Louis 14th in 1668. He commissioned Louis le Vau to build a porcelain palace which he could use as a retreat for himself and his mistress Madame de Montespan.

The palace had a blue and white ceramic façade which began to look a bit tatty after a few years and in 1687 the king had it pulled down for a new, much larger building to be erected in its place.

This commission was given to architect Jules Hardouin Mansart, who built the palace you can visit today. The red marble, single storey building was finished in 1688 and the king used it as a summer residence, holding dinner parties there for personal friends.

During the reigns of Louis 15th and 16th the palace was used to house members of the royal family and visiting dignitaries. In 1708, a large wing was added to house the members of the royal family of Orleans.

During the French Revolution it became dilapidated, but was restored under the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte and he often stayed here with his second wife. The furnishings you will see today date back to when he lived there.
2
Les Jardins de Trianon

2) Les Jardins de Trianon (must see)

The Trianon Gardens were created at the time of the Porcelain Trianon (1670-1687). The garden is a spacious green area full of fine plants, gorgeous flowers and beautiful trees.
3
Bassin du Trèfle

3) Bassin du Trèfle

The Bassin du Trèfle is a small water feature in the center of the Trianon area, near the Pavillion de Jussieu and the Théâtre de Marie-Antoinette. Set in an aesthetic geometric shape, this feature reflects the splendid beauty of the surrounding flora.
4
Orangerie

4) Orangerie (must see)

The buildings and gardens of Versailles are beautiful and diverse. The Orangerie is one of the finest examples of the whims of the kings of France.

King Louis 14th transformed the hunting lodge used by his grandfather Louis 13th, into the magnificent Palace of Versailles during three separate building campaigns. One of the first buildings to be completely finished was the Orangerie, built between 1684 and 1686, by the king’s favorite architect Jules Hardouin Mansart.

The building consists of a central gallery, 150 metres long and 21 metres wide with a high vaulted ceiling and tall arched windows facing the south for maximum sunlight. This gallery has two lateral galleries 117 metres long, which are under the famous “Cent Marches” stairway.

The gardens are spread around a central pond with a fountain. Around the pond are walkways and four lawns that are laid out in geometrical patterns. From May to October plants are brought out from the buildings and set out in large square tubs lining the paths.

Some of these plants and trees are over 200 years old and every year they are laden with fruit or flowers. You can admire Oleanders with their crêpe-paper red, pink and white blossoms, slender palms and orange, lemon and pomegranate trees from Italy, Spain and Portugal.
5
Hameau de la Reine

5) Hameau de la Reine (must see)

When you visit the Hameau de la Reine, it will be up to you to decide if it was built on the whim of a frivolous queen or for a lonely young woman who wanted to escape disapproving courtiers and lose herself for a few hours by pretending to be an ordinary woman.

The Hameau was built between 1785 and 1792 by Richard Mique, the queen’s favorite architect. It consisted of twelve cottages, five of which were set aside for the queen, the rest were part of a working farm that produced dairy products, fruit, vegetables and eggs for the queen.

The Maison de la Reine, her billiard room and boudoir are in the centre of the Hameau and in spite their rustic exteriors, the interiors were richly decorated with tapestries, stucco work and wooden paneling.

The Réchauffoir - or warming room at the back of the Queen’s House was used as a pantry, a bakery and a kitchen where meals were prepared for the queen and her guests. The Moulin (mill) has a steam-driven wheel, but the building was never used to grind anything as there is no grinding wheel inside.

The lighthouse shaped Marlborough Tower was used for storage, while the Laiteries (dairies) nearby produced butter, cream and cheese in one part, while the second was used as the Queen’s Tasting Room.

The Farm is set a little apart from the rest of the Hameau and had its own fields, vegetable gardens, vineyards and orchards. Sheep and cows were imported from Switzerland and raised on the farm. Marie-Antoinette often dressed as a peasant and milked the cows.

The Columbier (dovecote) was filled with poultry; the Grange which also served as a ball-room was destroyed during the Revolution. The Housekeeper’s Cottage is the building nearest the lake.
6
Temple of Love

6) Temple of Love (must see)

The Temple of Love is set on an artificial island in the centre of an artificial lake and is a calm place where you can sit for a while and drink in the beauty of this hidden part of Versailles.

The temple is a place of legend and superstition. It was built in 1778 by Richard Mique, who was the court architect and a favorite of Queen Marie-Antoinette. Its design is Neo-Classical with 12 columns supporting a white marble dome. In the centre of this small pavilion is a copy of Bouchardon’s controversial statue of “Cupid fashioning a Bow out of the Club of Hercules”.

According to legend, Marie-Antoinette had the temple built during her first pregnancy, seven years after her marriage to King Louis 16th because she feared that she wouldn’t be able to carry her child to term.

The temple, raised to pagan gods shocked the court and they blamed the birth of a baby girl on the queen’s “un-Christian” practices. In spite of their disapproval, Marie-Antoinette continued to visit the temple, where she prayed for a son.

Her three subsequent children had sad endings in spite of her prayers: The crown prince, born in 1781 died of tuberculosis in 1789. Marie-Antoinette’s third child, her second son, born in 1785, died in prison in 1795, and her fourth child, a daughter, born in 1786, died a year after her birth.

The temple is visited by thousands of tourists every year, but it is considered unlucky for young women to touch the columns or the statue of Cupid in the centre.
7
Petit Trianon

7) Petit Trianon (must see)

The Petit Trianon is one more beautiful building in Versailles that will give you another insight about how kings and queens lived in France before the Revolution.

It was built between 1762 and 1768 by Ange-Jacques Gabriel, commissioned by Madame de Pompadour as a retreat for herself and King Louis 15th, so that they could escape the rigueur of the royal court and relax among friends.

Sadly the King’s favorite mistress died before the “small” chateau was finished and it was used by her successor Madame du Barry.

The building is a mixture of late Rococo and Neo-classical style and each of its façades was designed to embellish the part of the estate that it faced: therefore the side that faces the French Gardens has ornate columns, while the north façade is rather simple as it faced the greenhouses of the botanical garden.

When Marie-Antoinette arrived at Versailles she was ill-prepared for the snobbery of the French court and her husband, Louis 16th, gave her the Petit Trianon and its lands so that she could amuse herself with her close friends far away from the courtiers’ prying eyes.

There is no doubt that Marie-Antoinette made this place her personal retreat, as the rooms are delicately decorated in feminine colors of pale rose, white and gold; her bedroom with its small, narrow bed, is on the 1st floor, while the rooms set aside for the king are in the mezzanine in the attic.
8
Théâtre de Marie-Antoinette

8) Théâtre de Marie-Antoinette

Versailles is a beautiful, fascinating place to visit and is full of surprises. From the outside, the Théâtre Marie Antoinette looks a bit like a barn or a farm outbuilding, but it hides a treasure not to be missed.

King Louis VXI spoilt his wife, giving into her every wish. He had no mistresses - probably because he wasn’t a very virile man – so he treated the queen like a mistress. Marie Antoinette loved the theatre and it was a popular custom for many great houses to have their own private theatre where they and their friends could put on small plays and operas in which they played the leading roles.

The theatre was built in 1780 by Richard Mique. It is a relatively small building with seats for a little over 100 spectators. The main aisle housed benches, while the galleries along the walls had comfortable seats. The entrance to the theatre is through double doors on the right of the small vestibule.

The decoration is lovely, with elaborate sculptures in gilt that make you wonder how they survived the Revolution. In fact they are made of papier-mâché and have no marketing value. The frescoes on the ceiling are copies of the originals. There is no lighting in the theatre, the stage was lit by a series of oil lamps and candles were set around the seats and the galleries.

The most ingenious form of mechanical scenery-changing equipment had been installed and this can still be seen today. Marie-Antoinette and her guests used the theatre for five years until she played the leading role in the Barber of Seville – which was considered unsuitable among the nobility – and her mother ordered her to close the theatre.
9
French Pavillon

9) French Pavillon

During his reign, King Louis XV often found court life either over-taxing or tedious. His mistress-en-titre Madame de Pompadour persuaded him to have a “small retreat” built on the grounds of Versailles where they could relax with a few friends and this idea resulted in the construction of the French Pavilion.

Far from being a little cottage, the Pavilion, designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel in 1750, is a miniature palace standing in front of a terrace and a sizeable pond. It was used for lunch parties and open-air concerts.

The façade is rather simple, with large French windows, topped by fan-lights over which you will see stone masks. A balustrade surrounds the roof and there are four pairs of statues of cherubs, or perhaps young children. Each pair represents one of the seasons and one of the elements. There are also eight pairs of stone jardinières filled with lead wildflowers.

The interior consists of a large circular room which you can visit, and four smaller chambers which you can’t. The chambers were the kitchen, the warming room, the boudoir and the wardrobe.

The main room has a beautiful ornate chandelier and an inlaid marble floor. Its walls are painted in a clear green and the decorations and woodwork are in gilt. The elaborate carvings around the ceiling are of children and symbolize fishing, gardening and hunting; intertwined with the carvings of flowers and vines you will see pigeons, ducks, swans and hens.

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